Inside the Insiders is a series of interviews with some of the most recognized and outspoken Microsoft influentials, journalists and enthusiasts I know. I plan to go around interviewing as many of these peers as possible to find out more about their background, life outside of Microsoft and their darkest Unix fetishes. At least that’s what I tell them. Little did they know their answers will help me annihilate them and my other competitors. Everyone’s still falling for it, even when I tell them outright.
She’s so full of karma, she glows of a warm shade of gold.
In an era of journalist-wannabes, there are only a few who can claim they actually studied journalism or worked as a professional journalist for much of their lives. Mary Jo Foley, or otherwise accurately nicknamed the “Microsoft Watcher” has done both. She’s been in the business right from the beginning when Steve Jobs was just a guy with the turtleneck. She probably knows more code-names than exists. And she’s broken several quite infamous Microsoft stories over the years, most negative – but that’s what people want to hear. I also had the pleasure of meeting Mary Jo at CES this year and so did Maryam Scoble who did an excellent video interview. Here’s my not-as-good-as-Maryam’s interview.
Hello Mary Jo. If you were a car, which one would you be?
Long: Hey Microsoft, if you want to hide secrets from MJ, hold meetings in a car park!
So you are the official Microsoft Watcher. How did that title come about? Or do you have a really big telescope pointed at Redmond?
And as for a telescope, who needs one? There are so many Softies, former Softies, Softie customers, Softie partners and Softie competitors all over the globe that you can watch Microsoft from anywhere these days.
Long: The whole world’s gone soft.
What type of Microsoft products or services do you have on your radar screen this year?
Long: You’ll have to print another set for Steve Sinofsky, he won’t be able to understand it.
How did you start covering Microsoft?
Long: Hey if you can’t beat them, join them right?
Didn’t you cover Microsoft way back when, like before Windows 95?
How has Microsoft treated you over the years? You’ve broke some groundbreaking stories.
Is it true you imposed as a Microsoft employee and rode the Microsoft bus all day long? Or that other claim you worked in the Microsoft cafeteria?
Did you study journalism in college or university? If so, why did you choose journalism? If not, how did you get into journalism?
You’re a freelance writer, what do you do every day? How do you organize a day when you can ‘do anything’?
Long: It’s official. She’s not normal.
What was the best moment during your time writing about Microsoft? Worst?
Long: When I’m wrong, I hide myself under my bed holding my teddy bear.
Are there any especially memorable interviews? Any interviews gone horribly wrong? For example, interviewee didn’t have a clue what he or she was talking about?
My favorite and most memorable interviews have been when I really clicked with the person I was interviewing. The worst have been when the person was warned about me and came into the interview defensively, ready for war. I’d rather not name names, in either example, because old Softies never go away — they just come back in new (and usually higher-level) jobs.
One of my funniest interview moments happened during the very first time I interviewed Bill Gates. I was brand new to covering technology. I was interviewing Gates on the show floor at Comdex in Las Vegas. We were out in the open in the Microsoft booth. Up came Steve Jobs while I was interviewing Gates. Gates and Jobs started chatting. I waited and waited. Finally I said to Jobs: “Do you think you could come back another time? I’m trying to do an interview here.” Gates said to me after Jobs walked off, “Do you know who that was?” I didn’t. Gates said: “He’s the head of Apple.” Yeah, not an auspicious beginning…but my very first story on Microsoft came out really well in spite of it all.
Long: You broke the universe! Gates was probably trying to talk him out of the computer industry. Now look what you’ve done.
Are there any plans to retire? It sounds like a really fun job, but keeping an unblinking eye must have its fair share of pains. Do you feel like just putting that all aside someday?
So far, I haven’t really glommed onto videoblogging or podcasting, but plain-old blogging is a blast. I love my job. I love learning new things every single day. It’s humbling and exciting. So no thoughts of retirement yet. I want to keep doing this for as long as I’m able.
If and when I do leave the field, maybe I’ll start baking vegan cupcakes or something and sell them on the subway….as you can see, I haven’t given “what’s next” a whole lot of serious thought.
Thanks MJ. You have been assimilated. I mean, look forward to seeing you again soon.